Karl's Astro-Journal

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Spring Creek Observatory (SCO) is a small privately-owned hobby observatory located in Upstate New York, USA a few miles north of the village of Greene. The observatory building consists of an 8 foot diameter Explora-Dome on top of a 10 foot square shed with a 4 by 10 foot storage area attached.

SCO in Early November 2015

SCO's goals are simple: Have fun exploring the wonders of the universe from our backyard, learn stuff about astronomy and imaging, and share the experience of observing the night sky with family, friends and the world at large. (Did I mention having FUN?!)

Built in the summer/fall of 2013, SCO saw first light on February 21, 2014. Building a backyard observatory proved to be a challenging task. Investigating designs and planning the construction took several months (i.e. pesky day job). Breaking ground occurred in mid-July 2013 and the final weather-proof structure was completed near the end of October. The wooden shed is supported by six concrete piers with a separate isolated pier for the telescope mount. The shed was based on plans provided by Explora-Dome and having experience in home construction proved extremely valuable. (ie. A very difficult DIY project without some experience in construction). A steel telescope pier was custom built at a nearby welding shop and sits atop the isolated concrete pier on three 3/4 inch stainless steel anchor bolts.

SCO First Light Image


Observatory Power Supply
The power supply for the observatory consists of two 12 volt deep cycle marine batteries connected in parallel and a Xantrex 1000 Watt Pure-Sine-Wave DC to AC inverter. This arrangement provides AC electric to two power strips, one on the telescope pier and one for lighting and laptop power. Future plans include adding a solar panel to charge the batteries, adding a small deck to tidy up the entrance and the removal of some poplar trees to open up additional sky.

The telescope at SCO is a two-element 120mm Sky-Watcher refractor (sometimes referred to as "pseudo-APOs") mounted on a Vixen GPD2 GEM. A 60mm guide scope with a 2x Barlow and 12mm crosshair eyepiece is used for manual guiding during imaging. The Vixen GPD2 mount uses a DD-3 RA/Dec controller/paddle which has an input for auto guiding and the addition of a specialized guiding camera will make guiding easier and more precise.

The Sky-Watcher is fairly nice scope to use for visual observing and for imaging. At f7.5 it has about a 2.5 degree field of view at prime focus across the diagonal of the imaging frame.

120mm Sky-Watcher on Vixen GPD2 Mount

Imaging at SCO is done with two Canon DSLRs; a classic 10D and a newer 60Da, the astronomy version of Canon's 60D camera. Imaging in a small observatory presents its own challenges. Moving around in the dark under an 8 foot dome in a 10 foot square observatory does not leave a lot of room to spare and can be precarious. It helps to have well thought out imaging plans and to set up hours ahead of time in order for things to go well.

It's always fun to imagine upgrades to the observatory/telescope/cameras, but the current setup is producing some decent results and a lot can be learned by doing some things old school. Still a GoTo mount and telescope upgrade are items to consider. The biggest advantage of a backyard observatory is that it's there and ready when you are. This more than anything has made building it worthwhile.



NOAA Space Weather
Prediction Center


Central New York


Adirondak Public

Syracuse Astronomical

Mohawk Valley
Astronomical Society

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